Building replica guns in Japan

I recently exchanged a few emails with a Japanese guy who makes blank firing replica guns. Apparently building replicas is a popular hobby over there. Their guns are pretty amazing.

AK-47 replica being tested.
Building a KRISS Vector subgun from CAD to completion.

Someone needs to give these guys a greencard, machine shop and a gun range. I am sure they would be able to cook up some interesting weapons if they lived in a country where it was legal to do so.

[ Many thanks to KEI for the info. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matthew

    Great share and agreed.

  • Aurélien

    They are not blank firing but cap guns. Tere is a whole industry of the replica gun in Japan, because they cant buy real weapons. They invented cap guns and airsoft to “fill the void”.

  • Steve,
    I’m currently living in Japan and would like to stop in to see these guys if they’re in the area. Could you ask them to email me if they’re interested?

  • Vak

    Funny how these people are the total opposite of our western “samurais” that buy katanas and dream to go to japan.

  • Vitor

    With all their ingenuity, great guns would come from there if they had a more pro-gun culture.

  • Jeff

    When I was at the Big Sandy machine gun shoot in Wikieup, AZ, there were a few Japanese film crews there. They must have thought it was heaven! 🙂

  • Crabula

    Thats a really great point. My girlfriends latest sick addiction has been importing vintage kimono from sellers on e-bay. I’m pretty sure most of the guys in this video would give their left nut to be able to own one of these guns.

    On a side note, I’ve seen animations of the Kriss Super V in action, but seeing their version of the mechanism work throug the clear plastic shell was pretty awesome.

  • Crabula

    Oops, I forgot to put the last h in the word through in the last sentence of my comment!!!!!

  • Lance

    What blank cartriges do those AKs fire?

  • Me

    I used to fly into Guam alot while in the military. In light of the ultra tight gun restrictions they have in Japan, I Had no idea how gun crazy, the Japanese were till I saw how many “gun parlors” there were on Guam at the time. Evidently a big vacation “too do” for them when they go overseas, play with some iron that makes alot of noise.

  • Kyle Huff

    Fun fact: replica firearms are prohibited in Canada.

  • Cymond

    Replicas are practically banned in the UK too. Apparently some high quality replicas were occasionally converted to shoot live ammo. They cost several hundred pounds to convert in addition to the cost of the replica. If I recall correctly, street prices have been known to exceed 1000 pounds for a converted replica. Just imagine what would happen over there if someone in the criminal underground imported a crate of old Makarovs!

  • jdun1911

    I don’t mind exporting anti-gun Americans to Japan and importing Japanese pro-gun into the USA. I think it is a win win for everyone that is involved.

    Honestly, they should come over to the USA and set up shop. Being outside of European and American gun cultures has its creative benefits. It would be very interesting to see what kind of firearms and accessories they can think up off.

    Give the Geen Cards!

    • yep, just think Kahr arms being a good example.

  • DavidR

    I’ll admit to being a bit enamored of those cap guns. I’d probably buy one just for the gadget factor.

    And before we Americans pat ourselves too proudly on the back, let’s recall that full auto is a pipe dream for most of us here–absurdly expensive, sometimes prohibited outright, and outright impossible for newer weapon designs. Even worse, it’s a Second Amendment infringement that we have resigned ourselves to live with…

  • Squidpuppy

    I grew up an expat kid in Japan, and my first less-than-toy gun was a replica Nambu T14 that fired really loud caps powerful enough to cycle the action; got it when I was 12. That thing, and replica versions of a S&W Model 36 Chief Special snubby and a Walther P-38 were what turned me into a gun nut. I took them apart and put them back together again many, many times.

    Back in the USA now, I have a genuine Nambu T14, from 1944. It was manufactured in the Kokubunji factory, one of the Tokyo area factories of Nagoya Arsenal. Coincidentally, that’s where my expat family lived. Kinda funny. Oh yeah, I also have a genuine AC44 Walther P-38, and a S&W M36 Chief Special snubby from 1955. So there y’go.

    When I was a kid, playing with my Japanese friends, we were all gun nuts; every kid worth his salt had them, all replicas or very realistic, heavy duty plastic ones (before airsoft). If they could have real firearms, I’m telling ya, there’d be more guns in Japan per capita gun nut than here.

  • Aurélien

    “Apparently some high quality replicas were occasionally converted to shoot live ammo. They cost several hundred pounds to convert in addition to the cost of the replica.”
    Technically they cant be converted like that. Japanese replicas cant, by law, use ballistic materials, for this precise reason. Usually conversions are rimfire guts put into a replica to look “cool”, so you have to legally buy the basic action in .22 or .17 or whatever. Trying to rebuild a military-grade weapon using a cap gun or airsoft gun would probably make you end up in a hospital or morgue.

  • jdun1911

    As long as the material can withstand the stress/pressure of the caliber then yes it can be converted into a real firearm. Materials like steel, aluminum, plastic, etc which you can buy at any scrap metal yard or hardware store can be turn into weapons.

    I have seen AR15 lower receiver that is made out of wood, cutting board, etc. This is possible because the stress is located in the bolt and barrel not in the receivers.

  • Aurélien

    I agree, but most parts in those replicas are made from ABS plastic and die-cast alloys.
    Chinese copys of the japanese designs on the other hand are sometimes made from pressed steel and hi-end materials, but that usually comes with a high price-tag, sometimes even more than the actual rifle. Some chinese companys build AR-15 replicas costing more than an actuel RRA LAR-15 or even Colt M4.

  • Squidpuppy

    The Japanese alloy metal replicas I had all came with an integral, raised lug inside the barrel; it was probably 1/4″ high, a couple of mm wide, and ran most of the length of the bore stopping just short of the muzzle. These things were cast metal, zinc & pot iron, think.

    So, I’m thinking they wouldn’t withstand the pressures of firing a live round, and with the blocking lug – you could expect a nice blow out. Not only that, I believe the dummy rounds they came with were slightly smaller than their real counterparts, so you couldn’t even load, or chamber a real round.

    But this was a long time ago, and at that time, most companies producing these things followed the same rules. Now I see there are some replicas that are truer to their inspirations made with higher quality material. They cost a heck of a lot more too.

  • jdun1911

    The high end airsoft gas operated firearms ($600+) can be converted to real gun at least as far as I know from the large discussion on a few months back.

  • Martin

    See, now this is a lesson for all anti-gun arguments. If guns cause crime (as in the US and West), then why don’t replica guns cause replica crime in Japan? I know, just a silly thought.

    BTW, these replicas are very nice. Good for them.

  • Carl

    Is it actually illegal to manufacture guns in Japan (assuming you are prepared to jump through some bureaucratic hoops like in most countries)?

    The lack of a proper domestic market is obviously a drawback, but I would think it would still be possible to make firearms for export. There exists at least one Japanese SMG to my knowledge.

  • Scott


    They do manufacture military firearms under the consortium HOWA. They make the Japanese Type 89 5.56mm. assault rifle used by the JGSDF. They pretty much are the only gun manufacturer that exists in Japan (if there are others please tell me I am wrong).

    They are also the same company that markets the HOWA civilian/sports/marksmanship bolt action rifles you see over here so they can at least continue to function as a company and make profits.

  • Aurélien

    They have 3 main small arms manufacturers, mainly building enhanced versions of western designs.

    Howa, builder of the Type 89 rifle (enhanced AR-18), built the AR-18 for ArmaLite until the export laws of Japan moved the production back to California. They also make parts for Mossberg and Weatherby, as well as civilian bolt actions for export.

    Minebea, mainly known for their PM-9, an enhanced mini-UZI, and the Sig 220 and 226 for the JSDF.

    Sumimoto Heavy Industries, builders of ships and enhanced versions of the FN Minimi and the NTK-62, GPMG of the JSDF working on a MAG-58 modified mechanics.

    Howa is the only one to work the export market, the other ones only work on government contracts.

  • Carl

    Scott, Aurélien, good info, thanks.
    I suppose exporting and importing weapons is more difficult in general than other products, for political reasons.

  • Tony

    The replica conversions over here (UK) were mostly of the 8mm blank firing type, with a few being done on certain types of self contained cartridge airguns (brocock revolvers mostly). The replica thing was mostly hysterics anyway, it was all the old spec de-activated weapons which were being put back in working order which worried those in the know, most of the replica conversions were dangerous junk.

  • Dave

    Steve, re: replicas being banned in Canada

    This came about because of a fears that someone would get shot holding a toy gun. IFAIK, if there is a blaze orange cap on the end, it is no longer considered a replica, and is not prohibited. Same thing with blue guns, clear plastic etc. It is rather a silly law, as are many of the Canadian Gun laws.

    Re: replicas being converted, I think it is more a case of the frame being used as a pre-made base for a commercial barrel and bolt. As far as i am concerned, someone with the ability to convert a replica can make a sten gun or a liberator et al., so why bother with the replica restrictions. Same for reactivating a well deactivated gun. If you can break all the welds and fab the new parts, then you can make a new gun, even if it is just with an un-rifled barrel.

  • Ben

    Cymond, I think you’re talking about this.

    In my own home town too. Tut-tut.

    Like anywhere else I suppose, guns aren’t too hard to get hold of illegally. There’s a growing industry in London where guns are rented out instead of sold with prices varying on what you plan do with them.